On a day with several key World Cup qualifiers around the globe, a friendly is likely to steal some headlines. South Africa used a sublime performance to upset top-ranked Spain, 1-0. Bernard Parker provided the winner for Bafana Bafana.
Spain almost jumped out in front within the first five minutes. David Villa broke free behind the South Africa back line, got past Itumeleng Khune and slid the ball into the net, but was deemed offside to bring a quick end to the celebration.
Bafana Bafana rebounded nicely from the early scare to create some chances of their own at the other end. The best came on a hard shot by Oupa Manyisa, which took a deflection off Sergio Ramos and left Iker Casillas hopeless, but the ball struck the crossbar.
Just inside the half-hour mark, Alvaro Arbeloa broke down the wing and delivered a pinpoint cross to Fernando Llorente. The Juventus striker's header flew wide of goal, though.
Neither side was able to produce much in the final 15 minutes of the opening half. Pedro wasn't able to connect for Spain on an Andres Iniesta pass as Khune rushed out. Bongani Khumalo had a look from a corner for South Africa, but it hit the side netting.
Thus, the first half came to a close without either team getting on the scoreboard.
South Africa continued to stand toe-to-toe with their more accomplished counterparts early in the second half. Tokelo Rantie had a golden scoring chance after a strong run and through ball from Siphiwe Tshabalala gave the striker a clear look at goal, but he fired wide.
Spain came within a few inches of grabbing the lead just after the 50-minute mark when Nacho Monreal joined the attack and hit a low strike that just caught the leg of Khune.
Just a few minutes later the deadlock was finally broken, and it was South Africa who took the lead over the world's reigning No. 1 team.
A picture-perfect tic-tac-toe play allowed Parker to get free in the box. His shot was partially blocked by Victor Valdes, but it still found its way across the line much to the delight of the home crowd.
Spain began to grow frustrated with each passing failed push forward. South Africa did a terrific job of closing down passing lanes inside the defensive third, which neutralized La Roja's greatest advantage when they are at their best.
South Africa created some opportunities on the counterattack with Spain pushing forward, but couldn't find a crucial second goal. Pepe Reina, who was the third keeper of the day for Spain due to an injury to Valdes, kept his side within one by making a few key stops.
Spain's best chance to equalize came in the final minute as Arbeloa fired on target, but Khune was up to the task one more time to secure the shocking upset for South Africa.
While it was far from Spain's best showing, South Africa deserves credit for taking advantage.
|South Africa Player Grades|
|DF||Bongani Khumalo (off 46')||B-|
|MF||Andile Jali (off 51')||C+|
|MF||Oupa Manyisa (off '63)||B|
|MF||Daylon Claasen (off 46')||C+|
|FW||Bernard Parker (off 92')||A-|
|Spain Player Grades|
|GK||Iker Casillas (off 46')||B-|
|MF||Xabi Alonso (off 62')||C-|
|MF||Andres Iniesta (off 74')||C+|
|FW||David Villa (off 62')||B|
|FW||Fernando Llorente (off 46')||C+|
|46'||Víctor Valdes (off 81')||C|
Today's friendly marks the end of competition for both national teams for 2013. In 2014, Spain will look forward to the World Cup while South Africa will focus on the African Nations Championship early in the year after missing out on a trip to Brazil.
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